People For the American Way

Census Bureau’s Own Research Staff Demonstrated That Airbrushing Out Same-Sex Marriages Distorts Data


Contact: Stacey Gates or Peter Montgomery at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

The Census Bureau reported this week that in completing the 2010 Census, it will ‘edit’ the data from same-sex couples who accurately report that they are legally married, and that it will instead re-classify them as “unmarried partners,” the same procedure used by the Bureau during the 2000 census, when no states yet recognized same-sex couples as legally married. That kind of “editing” undermines the Bureau’s mission to provide accurate and high quality data about the U.S. population, and according to a paper on the Bureau’s own website, creates a distorted picture of same-sex households.

“There are legally married same-sex couples in the United States,” said People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert. “It’s a fact that can’t be ‘edited’ out of existence. It’s time to stop faking the data for the sake of people who want to pretend that same-sex married couples don’t exist.”

The paper, “Unbinding the Ties: Edit Effects of Marital Status on Same Gender Couples,” was written in 1999 by two members of the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, Population Division. The authors looked at data from the 2000 Census “dress rehearsal,” and drew the following conclusions about the effects of “editing” the responses of same-sex couples from “married” to “unmarried partners”:

“it is clear from the examination of [the] unedited data that households which are identified as ‘married couple’ same gender households are a distinct group from households which are identified as unmarried partner same gender households. By combining these households . . . we [that is, the Census Bureau] are distorting the picture for both of these groups of households.’ (Emphasis added.)

And that was before there were same-sex couples recognized in any states as legally married — continuing to “edit” out married gay and lesbian couples in the next Census would create an even greater distortion.

People For the American Way has launched a petition urging the Census Bureau to reverse its policy.